REDD+ is ready to help save the Earth's climate
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program helps tropical forests, indigenous peoples
Cutting and burning trees adds as much global warming pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world, about 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently—and in time—to avoid dangerous consequences must rely in part on preserving tropical forests.
Unfortunately, forests today are worth more dead than alive. Conservation costs money, while profits from timber, charcoal, pasture and cropland drive people to cut down forests.
Tropical deforestation is an urgent problem
Stopping tropical deforestation is urgent: 32 million acres per year were cut or burned between 2000 and 2009.
Forests provide a significant contribution to the Earth’s climate through carbon storage, but destruction of tropical forests:
- Wipes out biodiversity
- Ravages the livelihoods of forest peoples
- Worsens global warming
Unless we change the present system that rewards forest destruction, forest clearing will put another 200 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in coming decades and devastate scores of indigenous populations.
Benefits of REDD+
REDD+ policies will provide important economic incentives for forest conservation. EDF’s economic and policy analysis demonstrates that REDD+ will produce the following benefits:
- Cuts pollution substantially right away, without waiting for new technologies. With the right economic incentives for forest protection, deforestation can be reduced drastically in the short term.
- Provides more overall greenhouse gas reductions at a lower cost than policies without REDD+
- Creates positive incentives for major developing countries to participate in global emissions reductions. The world’s fourth largest overall emitter, Brazil, has already slowed its deforestation by 75% and has committed to an 80% reduction from the 1996–2005 average by 2020. Brazil national and state REDD+ [PDF]
- Ensures emissions reductions. REDD+ reductions at the national level are far more certain than one-off “offsets” to achieve global emissions cuts, because REDD+ is tied to a national commitment to absolute reduction in a country’s overall emissions. (As critics have pointed out, local forest project “offsets” can be erased by increased emissions elsewhere, including in neighboring forests.)
- Protects unique ecosystems. Since tropical forests are home to at least half of all plant and animal species, deforestation threatens the biological diversity of the entire world.
- Promotes development by giving forest dwellers new sources of income to improve living standards while maintaining traditional ways of life. This is the soundest and most just route forward for the threatened indigenous peoples who inhabit the world’s remaining tropical forest lands.
- Provides greater transparency. Bringing efforts to stop deforestation into a global system and a soundly constructed global carbon market will provide greater transparency and protections at both local and national levels. Regulated markets demand the accurate, transparent monitoring and measurement that today’s satellite observing technology can deliver.
National- and state-level REDD+
In a national-level REDD+ program, a country that commits to reducing deforestation below an established baseline would receive valuable credits in carbon markets for reducing carbon emissions. Requiring a national baseline eliminates the shortcomings that critics have pointed out in a handful of local one-off forest projects. Independent satellite observations and spot ground inspections of forested areas would reliably verify that the national commitment is in fact being met.
EDF believes that “jurisdictional”-level approaches, i.e. state and local programs, can be an important stepping stone toward national-level REDD+, and we’re working to make sure that jurisdictional programs have environmental integrity.
REDD+ programs are getting off the ground around the world, including in the states of Acre, Brazil, and Chiapas, Mexico. We have partners and staff working in both countries helping them develop their jurisdictional approaches, and both states are working with California to develop good programs that could link with California’s cap-and-trade system.
Indigenous peoples and REDD+
Central to the success of REDD+ are the indigenous peoples who inhabit and protect much of the world’s tropical forested area. Their livelihoods and cultures are put at risk when forests are destroyed, so they have a great deal to gain from the REDD+ approach.
In short, REDD+ is the best way to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation, contribute to sustainable livelihoods for indigenous peoples and conserve tropical biodiversity on a large scale. It must be implemented now, before the world’s remaining tropical forests go up in smoke.